Published Mon, 2012-02-13 14:44; updated 41 weeks ago.

Seven excuses that smokers use to delay quitting, and how to overcome them.

Excuse 1: the damage is done

You might feel that because you smoke, you've already increased your chance of getting cancer or another smoking-related disease, so quitting now won't make any difference.

In fact, as soon as you quit, your body starts to repair itself. You'll notice improvements in your breathing and sense of taste and smell just a few days after stopping.

You'll also improve the health of your family and friends by not exposing them to passive smoking.

Find out more about the health benefits of quitting.

Excuse 2: I'll gain weight

Medical evidence shows that nicotine doesn't stop you getting hungry. Nicotine makes you burn calories faster, but as long as you remember that you need less food energy, quitting won't actually make you gain weight.

Try eating low-fat options and take up an activity instead of replacing cigarettes with food.

Read more about how to stop smoking without gaining weight.

Excuse 3: I'll get stressed

Despite what you may think, nicotine doesn't calm you down.

Nicotine cravings between cigarettes make you feel stressed and anxious, so when you smoke the cigarette you feel calmer. But you'll feel less stressed once you quit and don't have cravings any more.

If you want a cigarette, wait for 10 minutes and the craving will usually pass. Take some deep breaths or go for a walk to relieve the stress and distract you from those cravings.

Here are some more stress-busting tips.

Excuse 4: it's not the right time to quit smoking

Although it's true that you shouldn't try to quit during particularly stressful times, don't use this as an excuse to never try quitting.

Pick a particular date, such as the beginning of a holiday or the beginning of a working week. Work out what makes you want a cigarette, such as having a cup of tea or going to the pub, and pick a day when you can avoid these triggers.

Telling lots of people that you're giving up will make you more likely to quit. You won't want to let them down, and you can ask smokers not to offer you cigarettes.

Read more about 7 key times to quit smoking.

Excuse 5: quitting will ruin my social life

For many smokers, cigarettes are an important part of their social life. You may class yourself as a social smoker, who only has a cigarette when you're with friends who smoke or during nights out. You may also have bonded with colleagues during cigarette breaks.

Although social smoking may seem better than smoking 40 a day, any cigarette smoking damages your health.

The smoking ban introduced on July 1 2007, means that you can no longer smoke in public places. If you do, you face an on-the-spot £50 fine if you're in a public place such as a bar, restaurant, club or workplace. It could be an expensive cigarette.

Excuse 6: smoking looks good

For some people, holding a stick of tobacco wrapped in paper seems attractive and fashionable. Teenagers may think it makes them look older or cooler.

But many people find the sight of a smoker unattractive. Yellow fingernails, blackened fingers and a stained tongue are not a pretty sight.

Smoking also makes your complexion dull and prematurely ages your skin. So if you don't want to look old before your time, it's a good idea to quit.

There's also the smell. Cigarette smoke sticks to your hair and clothes long after you've had your last cigarette of the day. Some people think kissing a smoker is like 'kissing an ashtray'. If you'd prefer to smell fresher, now's the time to quit.

Watch this video to see how smoking can ruin your looks.

Excuse 7: I can't quit because I'm addicted

There is some truth in this. Smoking is an addiction that's undeniably tough to quit. But it's not impossible. With a lot of determination, you can do it.

To quit successfully, you need to deal with your chemical addiction to nicotine and the fact that smoking has become part of your daily routine.

The chemical addiction causes physical symptoms when you quit, such as tiredness, irritability and poor concentration. Your GP can prescribe medication to replace the nicotine. There are counselling and support groups that can give you extra motivation to help you ignore your cravings.

Change your routine so that you replace smoking a cigarette with an alternative, such as a drink of water or another activity.

Read more about the smoking treatments available on the NHS.

Information supplied August 2010.

NHS Choices